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Moving to Chicago

Tucked between the American heartland and Lake Michigan, Chicago offers a vibrant, multicultural and business-oriented experience. Chicago is America's third-largest city and keeps investing in itself, continuously improving infrastructure and education, and – as expats will notice – courting the world's largest companies to relocate their headquarters to within its windy borders.

Living in Chicago as an expat

Expats looking for employment in Chicago will discover a wide range of industries that cater for a variety of specialised fields in the city. With such a diverse job market, newcomers with skills in finance, manufacturing, IT, health services, and transport and distribution shouldn't experience much difficulty when looking for work. 

There is a wide range of accommodation options available in Chicago and new arrivals to the city shouldn't struggle to find something that suits their needs and their lifestyle. Fortunately, housing prices in Chicago are also on the lower side compared to other major US cities. There's a wide range of areas and suburbs to choose from, each with their own unique atmosphere. Living outside of the city centre is also not a problem as all areas are well serviced by Chicago's efficient public transport network

While health insurance is one of the major expenses expats will need to account for when moving anywhere in the USA, those relocating to Chicago can rest assured that they will have access to good quality medical services. The city is home to some of the best hospitals in the USA, largely due to the presence of many medical schools. 

Cost of living in Chicago

While the cost of living in Chicago is considerably higher than the national average, it is lower than many other large American cities such as New York City and San Francisco. The high cost of living is also offset by the fact that salaries in Chicago are also higher than the national average. 

Expat families and children

Those moving to Chicago with children will be pleased to find that the city offers a solid range of private and international schooling options. Not only that, but the city is incredibly family friendly and offers plenty of attractions to keep kids busy on the weekends. 

Outdoor spaces abound in Chicago, from the shoreline of Lake Michigan to Lincoln Park. There are also numerous waterparks, theme parks and an interactive children's museum where they can spend an afternoon of educational fun. 

Overall, new arrivals can look forward to an exciting time in the Windy City, with plenty of things to explore, learn and experience.

Weather in Chicago

Newcomers to Chicago may be taken aback by the city's extreme climate. There are four distinct seasons, each characterised by specific conditions.

September brings mild, crisp weather as autumn approaches. Winter, from late November to early March, is marked by heavy snowfall, including blizzards. It's not uncommon for the temperature to hover at 32°F (0°C) for days on end. During extremely cold periods, the temperature can drop to -4°F (-20°C) or lower.

Chicago’s spring is from mid-March to May with a gradual shift from cold to warm conditions throughout the season. June heralds the start of summer, which is typically hot, sunny, humid and prone to evening thunderstorms. Summer temperatures range between 73 and 82°F (23 and 28°C). 

 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Chicago

Every city has its ups and downs, and Chicago is no exception. When deciding whether to take the plunge and relocate, it's best to be realistic about what day-to-day life in the city will be like. Here are some of the pros and cons of moving to Chicago.


Accommodation in Chicago

+ PRO: Range of options

From two-flats and bungalows to high-rise apartments and freestanding family homes, there are plenty of choices to suit any lifestyle when it comes to accommodation in Chicago.

+ Pro: Renting and buying are relatively cheap 

Although Chicago has quite a high cost of living on a global scale, accommodation prices are on the lower end. Expats will be able to find a home to suit their budget, although it may come with a commute into the city for work. With such excellent transport options, however, this shouldn't be a problem. 


Transport in Chicago

+ PRO: Major air travel hub

With the O’Hare International Airport only 45 minutes from downtown Chicago, it's easy to fly nationally and internationally at the drop of a hat. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and other major cities are only a couple of hours from Chicago.

+ PRO: Good public transport system

Expats in Chicago won't have much need for a car as the city has an affordable, reliable and extensive public transport network consisting of trains and buses, some of which run 24 hours a day. This integrated system is made even easier with the use of a Ventra Card, on which credit can be loaded. 

- CON: Traffic is an issue

Another reason not to drive in Chicago, other than the excellent transport network in the city, is horrendous traffic. Newcomers should be aware of this and avoid driving or taking a taxi during rush hours, especially if in a hurry. Parking is also limited and hard to find, yet another reason to leave the car at home. 


Cost of living in Chicago

- CON: High cost of living

Chicago is one of the most expensive cities in America. Those moving there will need to ensure that they are able to shoulder the high cost of living the city incurs. Luckily, salaries are correspondingly high.


Lifestyle in Chicago

+ PRO: Chicago is a multicultural city

Chicago’s ethnically diverse roots make it a fantastic destination for expats, who should have no problem finding others who can commiserate with the highs and lows of the relocation process. Making friends should therefore not be too much of a struggle for new additions to Chicago's population. 

+ PRO: Lots of green spaces

The lifestyle in Chicago is fantastic. Those who enjoy the outdoors will have plenty of ways to spend their leisure time, from the famous Lincoln Park to the sprawling vistas of Lake Michigan.

+ PRO: The city has great food

Known for its restaurant and nightlife scene, new arrivals in Chicago should not struggle to find something that tickles their tastebuds. With a range of excellent restaurants, food markets and bars available, newcomers will be spoilt for choice when picking a dining spot on any night of the week. 

- CON: The crime rates are high

Sadly, Chicago is notorious for its crime rates, making safety somewhat an issue for its population. Fortunately, being vigilant of their surroundings and staying away from the more precarious areas should be enough to keep newcomers from having to experience any of the crime portrayed in movies and series about this city. 


Weather in Chicago

- CON: A long and cold winter

Be prepared: Chicago’s winter is extremely cold with snowstorms and blizzards. Heavy snow tends to pile up overnight, making it necessary to remove snow from doorways, driveways and cars before leaving the house.

Working in Chicago

Expats looking to work in Chicago are often drawn to its engaging and fast-paced business environment. Due to its central location in the country, the Windy City enjoys a pivotal role in both national and international trade. This has led to a history of economic strength, and contributes heavily to the steady growth of Chicago's job market, particularly in the services sector. Salaries in Chicago are also higher than the national average.


Job market in Chicago

The diversity of Chicago’s business climate remains its biggest strength and security. Those looking for employment in Chicago shouldn't experience much difficulty, as its wide range of industries caters for a variety of specialised fields. 

The city is famous for its financial sector, which is one of the most prolific in the country and is home to an impressive number of Fortune 500 companies. Other notable industries in Chicago include manufacturing, IT and health services. Transportation and distribution are also key business sectors, primarily due to the city’s ideal location at the crossroads of domestic and international trade routes. 


Finding a job in Chicago

The job search in Chicago is best started online. Most companies and employment agencies advertise vacancies on their own websites as well as on various job portals. Networking is also an important element of finding a job in Chicago, and expats should focus on expanding their contacts and building relationships within the corporate environment.

Expats wanting to work in Chicago are required to have a work permit for the USA.


Work culture in Chicago

Being such an international hub, the working environment in Chicago is incredibly ethnically diverse and the city is a prime location for international business activity. Expats can therefore expect to work with people from all over the world, immersed in an assortment of business cultures.

Generally speaking, however, business culture in the US is incredibly individualistic. The working world rewards 'go-getters' while those who lack independence, initiative and self-reliance lag behind. Status and age are largely obsolete and instead, merit, experience and past achievement are the vehicles for advancement. Expats coming from societies where seniority is a consequence of social class, length of service or maturity may find acclimating to this idea especially challenging.

Cost of Living in Chicago

While the cost of living in Chicago may not be as high as other US cities such as New York and San Francisco, it's by no means a cheap place to live. In the 2021 Mercer Cost of Living survey, Chicago is ranked the world's 45th most expensive city of the 209 cities surveyed. With Chicago’s growth as a major financial and business destination in the USA, there has been a general increase in development and cost of living. New arrivals should therefore ensure that their earnings will be enough to cover life in Chicago.


Cost of accommodation in Chicago

For expats living in Chicago, accommodation is likely to be the largest expense. Ultimately, how much a person spends on rent will depend on the area or suburb they choose to live in as well as whether they opt for an apartment or freestanding house. Areas close to the city centre are pricier than outlying suburbs.


Cost of transport in Chicago

Those moving to Chicago will be glad to know that they won’t necessarily need to invest in a car. The city has a comprehensive, efficient and reasonably priced public transport network consisting mainly of buses and subway lines. To save money, it's a good idea for regular commuters to invest in a monthly pass.


Cost of education in Chicago

There are many good public schools in Chicago that can be attended free of charge. Expats who choose to send their children to a private or international school should check whether their employment relocation package includes an allowance for their children’s school fees as these can be high.


Cost of entertainment in Chicago

Entertainment and leisure pursuits in Chicago are generally more reasonably priced than in many other US cities. There are also plenty of activities in Chicago which cost little or nothing. For example, most museums have one day a week where there are no entrance fees. There are also lots of free music and arts festivals that take place in Chicago throughout the year, and plenty of public parks to enjoy at no cost at all.


Cost of living in Chicago chart

Prices may vary depending on area and service provider. The chart below shows average prices for August 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 2,500 – 5,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 1,450 – 3,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 1,400 – 2,500

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 1,000 – 1,600

Shopping

Dozen eggs

USD 2.25

Milk (1 litre)

USD 0.85

Rice (1 kg)

USD 4.10

Loaf of white bread

USD 2.85

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 9.75

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 14

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

USD 8

Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 2

Cappuccino 

USD 4.20

Local beer (500ml)

USD 5

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

USD 75

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

USD 0.30

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

USD 58

Monthly utilities (includes electricity, water and refuse)

USD 156

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

USD 1.70

Bus fare in the city centre 

USD 2.50

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

USD 0.80

Accommodation in Chicago

Finding accommodation in Chicago is relatively easy but the rental market is competitive, so it’s best to start the property search as soon as possible. There are some unique and interesting housing options to suit every budget and lifestyle in Chicago. New residents are likely to find something ideal for their situation.


Types of accommodation in Chicago

Chicago is home to a wide variety of housing types. There's no one particular architectural style that is typical of the city.

Two-flats

Two-flats are two-storey residential buildings that contain identical residences on each floor. There is usually a common entrance to the building for both apartments. While some were specifically built as two separate residences, many of these started as single-family double-storey homes that have been converted.

Bungalows

Bungalows are popular housing options in Chicago. The majority of these sturdy brick homes were built between 1910 and 1940 and were often built in clusters of two or more homes in a row along the same street. The bulk of these homes housed Chicago’s working classes back in the day, but today the occupants of these homes are from all walks of life.

Apartments

There are many types of apartment buildings in Chicago, from older and smaller six-unit blocks to modern high-rise buildings. These can be found in several neighbourhoods, extending from the suburbs to the inner-city areas.

Condos

Condominiums (condos) are also popular in Chicago. These can consist of mid or high-rise properties, with some old mansions in Chicago even being converted into condominiums. These properties usually offer amenities such as swimming pools and tennis courts for all residents to enjoy.


Finding accommodation in Chicago

Finding accommodation in Chicago is relatively easy. Online property portals and the local classifieds are filled with real-estate listings. Perusing these is a good way to get an idea of the property market and common prices. It’s also possible to enlist the help of a real-estate agent or apartment locator. 

Companies in Chicago offer short-term corporate housing, and most newcomers to Chicago will want to agree to short-term rentals or subletting before moving over to more permanent accommodation. Good deals can sometimes also be found in larger, shared accommodation.


Factors to consider when house-hunting in Chicago

As in any large city, finding accommodation in Chicago varies greatly according to preferred style, price and location. For many, avoiding long commutes into work is the most important factor.

The greater Chicago area is enormous and many commute daily into Chicago from the suburbs and nearby cities, making properties in the city centre and near public transport lines much more expensive.

Living in the Chicago city centre is particularly appealing to young and single residents as it offers a dynamic lifestyle close to nightlife and entertainment. Families usually live further afield on the outskirts of the city for increased space, lower rent and a higher standard of safety.


Renting accommodation in Chicago

Application

Once a suitable new home has been found, it’s best to act quickly and file an application with the agent or landlord right away. It's common to have to provide proof of income and be subjected to a background check as part of the application process.

Deposits

To secure a property, a security deposit of at least one month’s rent is typical, as well as the payment of the first month’s rent upfront. The security deposit will be returned at the end of the lease period, provided there is no damage to the property.

Leases

A lease is normally signed for one year, although shorter-term options are available. It’s important to establish what exactly is included in the rental agreement and if there are additional monthly payments, such as utility and maintenance costs.

Utilities

The cost of water and heating is often included in the monthly rental price, but other utilities such as electricity, phone and internet are usually an additional expense. This can vary from lease to lease.

Areas and suburbs in Chicago

The best places to live in Chigago

Chicago is a multicultural city with a variety of neighbourhoods to suit all kinds of new residents. While there are many diverse areas and suburbs in Chicago to consider, the residential areas that most expats usually drift to lie largely to the north of the city.


Neighbourhoods in Chicago

Neighbourhoods in Chicago

Lakeview

Lakeview is a popular neighbourhood and is home to several different communities, including families and young professionals.

Those who enjoy sports will be pleased to know that Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, is located here. It's also a buzzing nightlife destination with tons of restaurants and bars as well as live music venues and theatres.

Close to the banks of Lake Michigan, Lakeview also offers outdoor activities such as golfing, running and biking paths, and direct access to Lincoln Park. A tree-lined neighbourhood dotted with coffee shops and parks, Lakeview is a beautiful place to live.

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is a lively area located close to Downtown Chicago. Families with children of all ages live in this neighbourhood. It is popular with newcomers because of the good public and private schools located nearby.

Lincoln Park feels like a big garden in the middle of urban civilisation and boasts zoos, beaches on the shore of Lake Michigan, as well as running and biking trails and plenty of playgrounds. Those interested in exploring the area's nightlife can look forward to discovering everything from sophisticated cocktail lounges to laid-back dive bars.

Evanston

Evanston is located to the north of Chicago and is home to Northwestern University. The area attracts not only students but also families with children of all ages. It's a family-friendly residential neighbourhood populated by large, beautiful houses with gardens.

Logan Square

Logan Square is located midway between the O’Hare International Airport and Downtown. The population here is mostly composed of working-class people. There are diverse communities of foreigners, and the area is also popular with students and artists.

Much of the population in this neighbourhood is attracted by the low rent. Accommodation options consist mainly of apartments.

Healthcare in Chicago

Healthcare in Chicago is first-rate but extremely expensive. All new arrivals should arrange health insurance for themselves and their family as medical expenses will often need to be paid upfront or be guaranteed by an insurer.

Most expats hired by a large company will have insurance through their employer, which usually also covers family members. There are various levels of coverage, including levels of different deductibles, dental and optical coverage that should be discussed with the employer.

Below is a list of the most prominent hospitals in Chicago.


Hospitals in Chicago

Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center

Website: www.advocatehealth.com/immc
Address: 836 W. Wellington Avenue, Chicago

Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Website: www.nm.org
Address: 251 E. Huron Street, Chicago

Rush University Medical Center

Websitewww.rush.edu
Address: 1620 W. Harrison Street, Chicago

University of Chicago Medical Center

Websitewww.uchicagomedicine.org
Address: 5841 S. Maryland Avenue, Chicago

Education and Schools in Chicago

Chicago is home to one of the largest school districts in the USA. The standard of education and schools in Chicago is variable, with some schools being excellent while others fall well below standard. Nevertheless, there's a wide range of options for parents to choose from when it comes to educating their children in the Windy City. 

There are public, private and international schools in Chicago. Each family's choice of school will depend on many factors, including budget, proximity to a particular school or neighbourhood, and the specific educational needs of the child.


Public schools in Chicago

Public schools are largely attended based on school zones, decided by address. Parents should visit the schools and talk to the school board to explore their options before their children attend. The better public schools tend to be in the more affluent areas of the city, and choosing the right neighbourhood in relation to good public schools is a crucial aspect of a move to Chicago.

Parents also have the option of sending their child to a charter or magnet school in Chicago. These schools have more flexibility in terms of their academic programmes and curricula. They also have their own admission requirements which may differ from mainstream public schools. In most cases, they are also not subject to the same attendance boundaries, so enrolment is open to children from all over the city.


Private schools in Chicago

Many expats send their children to private schools in Chicago which often offer better education than their public counterparts. There are many private schools to choose from, and parents aren't restricted to their neighbourhood when it comes to choosing a private school in Chicago.

Private schools are sometimes religiously affiliated while others use alternative educational philosophies such as Montessori or Waldorf. A private school may have a specific focus area such as the arts or science or may cater to children with special needs.

Unlike public schools, which are free, private schools charge fees, which can be high. Financial aid or scholarships are sometimes provided to students who can’t afford tuition, although this isn't always the case.


International schools in Chicago

International schools are a popular option for expat parents in Chicago. These schools generally follow a non-US curriculum. Examples of curricula offered by various international schools within Chicago include the British, French or German education systems. The International Baccalaureate is also offered by many schools.

As with private schools, fees at international schools can be high. That said, they do offer a good option for those who'll be living in Chicago for the short term and want their children to continue their home curriculum.

Top-rated international schools are extremely competitive, and it can be difficult to secure a spot for enrolment. Applications should be made as early as possible.


Special-needs education in Chicago

The city's education system is well equipped to provide for students with learning and developmental disabilities. There are multiple federal laws in place in the US to ensure that children with disabilities have fair access to quality education at no cost, regardless of state.

Both public and private schools usually have programmes in place to support students with learning difficulties. In cases where a person’s disability is too severe for them to benefit from mainstream education, there are special education facilities that are able to offer students a special-needs programme tailored to meet their specific requirements.


Tutors in Chicago

Whether a child has fallen behind in math class or is in need of additional support to excel in their college entrance exams, there are plenty of private tutors available to assist children with their learning in Chicago.

It’s wise to start by asking the child’s school or other parents in the area for a recommendation. Alternatively, one could utilise the services of established tutoring companies. These companies offer an array of packages from subject-specific intensive programmes to one-on-one home tuition and small group sessions. 

Enlisting the services of a private tutor is an excellent opportunity for students to address any gaps in their knowledge, excel at a certain subject, or simply build confidence in their new environment.

International Schools in Chicago

Steeped in a strong history of immigration, Chicago has a large foreign-born population that continues to flourish today. As a result, many international schools have opened in the Chicago area. Expat families, especially those who don't plan on living in Chicago permanently, often prefer to send their children to international schools rather than local schools. These schools teach curricula from around the world, often in the home language of their sponsoring country.

International schools are a great way to meet other expat families with a similar background. Though they can be expensive, they usually offer a correspondingly high quality of education.

Below are some of Chicago's most prominent international schools.


International schools in Chicago

British International School of Chicago, South Loop

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, International Primary Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.nordangliaeducation.com

GEMS World Academy Chicago

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.gemschicago.org

German School of Chicago

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 14
Website: www.germanschoolchicago.com

Lycée Français de Chicago

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.lyceechicago.org

Lifestyle in Chicago

Chicago is a vibrant city brimming with wonderful attractions and activities for newcomers to enjoy. With high energy and a healthy, clean-living lifestyle, those who relocate here might need to make a few adjustments to their way of life, but be prepared to splash out, as Chicago can be expensive.

The city is renowned for its shopping, nightlife and restaurants, but it also features good entertainment venues, world-class sports facilities and spas.


Shopping in Chicago

As a city known for haute couture, new arrivals with a sense of fashion are sure to fall in love with Chicago. Head straight for Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue where hundreds of store windows all vie for attention. Oak Street is also a good bet for fashion and designer stores. 

Those who love to browse will find just about anything under the sun at Maxwell Street Market, which takes place on Sunday mornings from March to December.


Eating out in Chicago

From fine dining to hot dog stands and fast-food outlets, Chicago offers a variety of dining options to suit every taste and budget. The trendy Lincoln Park, exotic Chinatown, Little Italy and the Mexican neighbourhood of Pilsen are just a few of the best areas to discover the city’s culinary delights.


Entertainment and nightlife in Chicago

With a long list of hip and happening hotspots to keep the party going until the early hours of the morning, Chicago is a fabulous place to hit the town. Although many of the locals prefer to stick to what they know, expats who relocate here will have a wonderful time finding their favourite watering hole. 

Wells Street in Old Town has some fantastic restaurants and bars, while the Lincoln Park, Wicker Park and Lakeview areas are the places to go for music clubs playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and hard rock.

Chicago also has a thriving theatre scene, with touring productions from Broadway regularly shown in the city’s large theatres, and plenty of other smaller productions shown at more intimate venues.


Outdoor and sporting activities in Chicago

Chicago is a family-friendly city with hundreds of neighbourhood parks and playgrounds to explore. Lincoln Park is Chicago’s largest public recreation area and offers many outdoor attractions for the whole family. There are many annual food and music festivals to enjoy in the summer, while during the winter months, many of the city's parks offer open-air ice-skating rinks.

The beaches along Lake Michigan also provide wonderful recreational opportunities. In the summer, the shores teem with people walking, jogging, playing volleyball, and picnicking. The lake itself is another recreational gem, with sailing and swimming being popular pastimes among Chicagoans.

Weekend Breaks in Chicago

Chicago is an exciting, dynamic place, and while there's plenty to explore within the city itself, there's also much to experience beyond its borders. Here are a few recommended spots for the perfect weekend getaway from Chicago.


Weekend breaks in Illinois

Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park is just a two-hour drive away from Chicago. Visitors can explore the area's canyons and waterfalls, keeping an eye out for the area's wildlife, which includes deer, otters and eagles. Depending on the season, different kinds of activities are available, including cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and canoeing.

Galena

Galena is three hours west of Chicago. Located in the countryside of Illinois, this quaint town is popular with residents of Chicago looking for a weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. There are plenty of interesting historical sites to explore, or visitors can simply enjoy some time in the outdoors.

Springfield

Springfield is the capital of Illinois and is three and a half hours away from Chicago by road. Notably, Springfield is the birthplace of one of the most famous US citizens, Abraham Lincoln. The main attractions are the historic and government sites such as Lincoln’s home and tomb, the Illinois State Capitol and the Dana-Thomas House.


Weekend breaks in Wisconsin

Milwaukee

Milwaukee is just one to two hours' drive north of Chicago. It has been strongly influenced by the old-world European style and one can still feel it in the city atmosphere. Milwaukee is mainly known for its breweries but has a lot of other interesting attributes such as parks, lakes, fantastic restaurants, and the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells is roughly three hours away from Chicago and is an ideal getaway for families. Newcomers can experience plenty of fun and sun at the city's 20 water parks. It's the perfect place to enjoy the Labor Day weekend, just before kids go back to school in September.

Kids and Family in Chicago

Expats relocating to Chicago with their kids in tow will be pleased to know that the city is family-friendly. There are plenty of attractions and activities for the little ones to enjoy.


Entertainment for kids in Chicago

Chicago Children's Museum

Parents looking for a fun but educational day out should head to the Chicago Children’s Museum. It's the perfect place for inquisitive young minds. The museum includes three floors of interactive exhibits, including a tinkering lab, play space, water and climbing exhibits, and an art studio. 

Chicago Children's Theatre

For a dose of arts and culture, catch a show at the Chicago Children's Theatre. The theatre aims to inspire children to lead lives of adventure, courage and curiosity. Parents will also be able to sign their little ones up for the theatre's acting classes and themed drama camps. 

Lincoln Park Zoo 

Children will love a trip to Lincoln Park to meet the gorillas, polar bears and much else at the Lincoln Park Zoo. With one of the largest zoo-based conservation and science programmes in the country, Lincoln Park Zoo is also dedicated to using science to conserve wildlife and provide better care. Families will be able to learn about a huge range of animals while viewing them up close in safe and protected spaces.

Shedd Aquarium

First opened in 1930, the Shedd Aquarium has a rich history dating back close to a century. The aquarium is committed to conservation, and the protection of the aquatic animal world is a core part of their mission. It comes highly recommended and is a great activity for the whole family. Visitors can walk among exhibits and learn about the 32,000 marine animals housed there, as well as about how to take action to protect them.

Six Flags Great America

Six Flags Great America amusement park makes for a great day out for the family. Although the park originally opened in 1976, Six Flags, the biggest regional theme park company in the world, has owned and operated it since 1984. Newcomers are guaranteed endless hours of entertainment enjoying the thrilling rides throughout the park. 

Beaches of Michigan Lake

The beaches of Michigan Lake offer plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities for the entire family. Whether it's building sandcastles, swimming or having a lakeside picnic, there is plenty of fun in the sun to be had along the riverside. 

See and Do in Chicago

Expats who relocate to Chicago will love the city’s high energy, attractions and activities. There's plenty to keep any new resident busy while they explore their new home and familiarise themselves with the ins and outs of the city. Here are a few of the best things to see and do in Chicago.


Attractions in Chicago

The Field Museum of Natural History

One of the largest natural history museums in the world, the Field Museum offers a wide range of exhibits to explore, from Ancient Egypt to working DNA laboratories and more. Don't forget to pay Sue a visit – the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

The historic home of America’s most renowned architect, the late Frank Lloyd Wright, is a must for all culture vultures. The house was originally built in 1889 but was extensively remodelled by Wright in 1895. Those interested in learning more about this American icon will be glad to know that the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust leads tours of the home.

Art Institute of Chicago

Home to one of the greatest collections in the world, art lovers are sure to enjoy visiting the Art Institute of Chicago to marvel at the wonderful works inside. Some of history's most renowned artworks can be viewed in the museum, including Grant Wood's 'American Gothic' and Vincent van Gogh's famous self-portrait.

Lincoln Park

Expats who enjoy outdoor pursuits will love Lincoln Park’s plethora of attractions. Situated along a seven-mile (11km) shoreline, there's plenty to do in the park. Lincoln Park receives more than 20 million visitors a year and enjoys the distinction of being the second-most visited park in the US after Central Park in New York City. Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, enjoy the beaches, stroll through the botanical conservatory, have a practice swing on the golf course or pack a picnic and relax in the grassy meadows. 

What's On in Chicago

From huge music festivals to celebrations paying homage to food and the arts, there are many exciting annual events in Chicago that have put the city on the map. Here are our top picks of must-attend events for new arrivals.


Annual events in Chicago

St Patrick's Day Parade (March)

Chicago hosts one of the largest St Patrick's Day celebrations in the US, with close to half a million people gathering to watch the festivities. The Chicago River is even dyed green for the occasion (with an eco-friendly dye).

Bike the Drive (May)

Each year at the end of May, Lake Shore Drive is open to bikes only, offering a fantastic occasion to bike with family and friends. This is a unique opportunity as this 30-mile stretch of road is usually full of cars.

Chicago Blues Festival (June)

As the world's largest free blues festival, this event is a must for all blues enthusiasts living in Chicago. Dozens of local and international artists of the highest calibre perform over the course of this three-day festival.

Grant Park Music Festival (June to August)

This 10-week classical music festival founded in the 1930s is a must-see for music buffs. The Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Grant Park Chorus are a mainstay of the concert series, with special guest conductors and performers also making appearances.

Taste of Chicago (July)

By some measures the world’s largest food festival, this gastronomic multi-day marathon celebrates Chicago-style food and entertainment. Apart from the array of food stalls and pop-up restaurants, live music performances are another highlight.

Lollapalooza (August) 

Lollapalooza is a world-famous annual music festival taking place in Chicago. Lasting four days, Lollapalooza offers performances from all sorts of musicians across its eight stages. The festival hosts an impressive line-up of local and international bands.

Chicago Gourmet (September)

Foodies who are ready for yet another culinary adventure following Taste of Chicago can enjoy the fantastic weekend celebration of food and wine at Chicago Gourmet. Highlights include tastings, seminars and live demonstrations by celebrity chefs.

Frequently Asked Questions about Chicago

Expats moving to the Windy City are sure to have queries about their soon-to-be-home. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Chicago.

I don’t want to send my child to a bad school, but I want to live in the city centre. I’m afraid private school will cost too much. What should I do?

Many schools in Chicago are great; parents just need to do some research to find the best ones and try to enrol their child in one of these. There are also programmes and public schools for gifted students, many of which are among the best schools in Chicago. Also, some private schools offer financial aid or scholarships, so it's well worth researching.

Chicago is called the 'Windy City', but is it really that windy? Is it going to be cold?

Winter gets downright freezing, but to make up for it summer can be scorching hot. People tend to prefer the spring and autumn for milder climates. For all its reputation as a windy city, the Chicago winds aren't too bad. It does stay breezy next to Lake Michigan though.

Am I going to need a car?

Owning a car is certainly not necessary for getting around in Chicago. There are efficient commuter rails from the suburbs to the city centre, a good subway line in town and buses run frequently throughout the city. Traffic is also horrendous during rush hours and parking is minimal. That said, many people drive to the commuter trains if not living near a stop, and those with children or who work outside of the city centre could find a car useful. Newcomers to the city should assess the amenities nearby their home and their work commute before deciding whether to purchase a car. 

Is there free public healthcare available to expats in Chicago? 

Unfortunately there is no free public healthcare system in the USA. While there are some assistance programmes for children and those who cannot afford private insurance, expats do not qualify for this. It's highly recommended that newcomers take out a private health insurance plan or try to negotiate one into their employment contract. That said, those with health insurance will have access to some of the best medical care in the world in the USA. 

Getting Around in Chicago

Chicago has a comprehensive and efficient network of public transportation. The city is home to the second-largest public transport system in the USA, consisting of an extensive network of buses and trains, some of which run 24 hours a day. 

Chicago's well-integrated public transport network is operated by several entities, all of which fall under the umbrella of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is responsible for most of the city's buses and trains, with additional services provided by Pace Suburban Bus and Metra Commuter Rail respectively.

The availability of good public transport reduces the need to drive, especially in terms of commuting in and out of the city centre. That said, new arrivals with children or who plan on travelling to other parts of the USA may still find that having a car is useful.


Public transport in Chicago

Those who plan on travelling regularly should get themselves a Ventra Card. This is a smartcard system allowing commuters to simply tap in and out when boarding or disembarking from a train or bus. Travel passes or credit can be loaded onto the card, either online or at a machine. Ventra Cards can be used on all forms of CTA, Metra and Pace transport.

Buses

Buses are the most commonly used mode of transport in Chicago and are run by both the CTA and Pace. They serve local communities and help commuters move across the city. There are also a number of express services available. The frequency of buses varies depending on the particular route and the time of day.

Trains

Known as 'the L' (for 'elevated'), Chicago's rapid transit system is extensive. Managed by the CTA, the L is made up of eight lines, each of which is associated with a particular colour. The Red and Blue lines offer 24-hour service. 

Metra operates a commuter rail service consisting of 11 lines, covering outlying suburbs. Metra trains are generally fast and reliable, although trains arrive less frequently outside of peak hours.


Taxis in Chicago

Taxis provide a convenient way to get around Chicago. In the city centre, taxis can easily be hailed from the side of the road. That said, those living further away from the city centre should consider pre-booking a taxi ahead of time. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft are often the easiest and most efficient way to do so.


Cycling in Chicago

Chicago has a national reputation as one of the best large cities in the USA for cycling. There are more than 200 miles (322 km) of cycle paths in Chicago. There are also bike racks and sheltered, high-capacity bicycle parking areas at many rail stations. This allows one to cycle for part of their journey and then hop onto a bus or train for the remainder.


Driving in Chicago

It's generally best to avoid driving in the city centre of Chicago. Even locals with cars don't generally use them to commute into the city.

Traffic can be awful and parking expensive. Even outside Chicago’s city centre, parking is not readily available. Furthermore, there are lots of parking restrictions in place. These rules are constantly enforced in the form of parking fines and towing.

Local drivers are also known for driving aggressively, especially on Chicago’s expressways. Drivers will be pleased to know, however, that road conditions and signage are of a good standard in Chicago.